Carlos Francisco Fernandez ’08 never intended to contact Undergraduate Career Services after graduation — at least until Lehman Brothers, where Fernandez worked in natural resources, filed for bankruptcy.
The Yale graduate called UCS on Monday, Sept. 15, the day Lehman went down.
“They gave me an appointment as soon as possible,” he said.
Few alumni interviewed for this story said they would think to take advantage of UCS after graduation. But UCS Director Philip Jones said students can participate in Yale’s on-campus-interview program up to one year after graduation. Alumni of all ages can also consult with UCS career advisers when contemplating a job or education shift, he said, although the option is most frequently used by those who graduated less than five years ago.
But Fernandez does not have much company. Despite the worsening financial crisis, Jones said, alumni have not been returning to UCS in any greater numbers than in past years.
Some recent graduates pointed to the greater utility of Association of Yale Alumni networks and a feeling — left over from their days as undergraduates — that UCS caters only to certain career tracks as reasons for not seeking out help from the crew at 55 Whitney Ave. But, Jones said, continued trouble on Wall Street could bring more and more alumni back to UCS.
“Whether that will change three or six months from now, I don’t know,” he said, “but we are not seeing any dramatic shifts at the moment.”
Many alumni, like Julie Swerdlow ’07, an associate at Boston Consulting Group in Chicago, said while they used UCS as undergraduates, they did not think they had much use for it after graduating. Albert Ferrara ’07, who works in natural resources at Morgan Stanley, said he is happy with his job and has not been anticipating a possible career change — although he acknowledged that the financial crisis could change things.
“[I] may be using it here shortly,” Ferrara joked.
Other graduates said UCS did a good job helping them find employment as undergraduates, with the result that they no longer need career counseling.
“That really speaks far to the great job they do on the undergraduate side,” said Andrew Strand ’07, an insurance sales representative at M&T Bank.
Swerdlow also said she used UCS as an undergraduate to research jobs, although she does not know of anyone who has taken advantage of its post-graduate opportunities.
“Literally everyone I know has been working, and I don’t think looking for anything else,” she said.
Swerdlow said she thinks using the Association of Yale Alumni Web site for “networking” is a better option than using the services that UCS provides. UCS and the AYA worked together to create the Yale Career Network, a Web site through which graduates can search for other alumni contacts within their desired career path.
Brian Thompson ’08, a research analyst with Blue Canyon Partners, said he signed up for the UCS mailing list after graduation, but found the distance between Illinois and 55 Whitney Ave. to be prohibitive.
“They are just too far away,” he said.
A Limited Focus
Ashley Maguire ’07 said she used the UCS-operated Web site eRecruiting when she decided to move from Stamford, Conn., to Houston, Texas. Maguire was working at Time, Inc. in Connecticut when she reapplied for a UCS password. But ultimately, she said, it probably did not help much.
“I felt like I submitted a lot of things and I didn’t necessarily get a lot of feedback or things from any of the places I applied to,” she said.
Maguire said she never actually went to UCS in person because they were “so unhelpful” when she was an undergraduate.
“I just felt they only provided information for people who wanted to take very selective tracks,” she said. “They had that. For people who didn’t want to necessarily do that, there weren’t many options.”
Jones said UCS does not concentrate its resources on any specific professions over others.
“In every situation, it’s a question of what the individual needs,” he said. “We will focus on where the individual person is at when they come to see us.”
But two other class of 2007 graduates, who asked to remain anonymous to speak frankly about UCS, said they had the same experience as Maguire. After growing frustrated with the program, they wrote a joint letter to former Yale College Dean Peter Salovey.
“UCS has a campus-wide reputation for doing four things well: med/law school, consulting, IBanking. And UCS does do these things well,” the letter read. “We all agree they are very good. However, when a student does not want one of these four choices, UCS becomes far less helpful.”
The graduates said neither of them wanted to go straight into graduate school, although they did not have any other specific plans.
“[UCS] told us to get back to them when we figured ourselves out,” one said.
Both graduates made on-campus appointments with UCS during the 2007 Harvard-Yale game, but still did not feel that UCS provided helpful advice. One said she eventually turned to using alumni contacts to look for jobs, which she found more fruitful.
She said she met a former AYA board member, Ed Hirs ’79 SOM ’81, who offered her career advice, through the Yale alumni network.
“UCS really doesn’t spend much time working with alumni,” Hirs said. “UCS spends more time working with students and companies that want to come on campus.”
But Ferrara said UCS acts as a “safety network” for alumni in case a student wants to change jobs or runs into unexpected circumstances, the way Fernandez did.
Fernandez will never know whether UCS would have been of any help to him after graduation. After he found out Lehman had been purchased by Barclays Capital a few days after the event, he skipped his appointment.
“I was exploiting whatever I had at hand,” he said.